The close link between nature and Norwegian identity is essential to Neue’s passport design. “We wanted a concept that citizens born and raised in Norway would recognise but at the same time include all future Norwegian citizens.
An ingenious idea for an ID
When London’s Design Museum announced the nominees for its prestigious 2016 Designs of the Year awards, Norway’s Neue Design Studio was on the shortlist. Its entry? The world’s most attractive passport.
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What is required for something to become a design classic? We might think that one absolute necessity is for the object in question to have been around for a while. But that is not so with the new Norwegian passport, which has not even entered service yet but is already being called a classic.
“We wanted a concept that citizens born and raised in Norway would recognise but at the same time include all future Norwegian citizens.”
Inspire travelled to Oslo to meet Benjamin Stenmarck, the designer behind the new Norwegian passport, which, although it doesn’t even exist yet, has already been praised for its simplified reflection of the Norwegian identity. Stenmarck is one of the part-owners and designers at the design studio Neue. Founded in 2008, Neue is run by four men with a shared agenda: to create designs based on equal amounts of insight and creativity. The studio is small enough to work very closely with its clients but big enough to take on large-scale commissions.
It was in February 2014 that the National Police Directorate Norway (POD) and the National Criminal Investigation Service Norway (Kripos) sent out a call for tenders. We might think that a passport has only one function: to verify its holder’s national identity. But because a passport is at once both a private and a public document, its design has very specific requirements. The commission was to develop a passport that clearly and creatively indicates Norwegian identity and that will feel relevant for many years to come.
From there, the step for Neue was not far to Norway’s scenic nature, which is so closely linked to the Norwegian identity. Perhaps more than some other nationalities, people who live in Norway have a long-established association with nature. The country’s biggest cities are all surrounded by forests, mountains and water. Children are brought up to spend time in nature, care for it and love it. Benjamin Stenmarck is no exception.
“We love to walk, ski and just to meet up in the woods – every weekend, throughout the whole year. It is a quiet break from a hectic schedule. I am definitely inspired by nature.”
Describe the concept behind your theme of “Norwegian Landscapes”. How did you come up with the idea?
“We embarked on this task with reverence. But it was important to put that aside to focus on telling a story – the Norwegian story. We wanted a concept that couldn’t be captured by time. A concept that citizens born and raised in Norway would recognise but at the same time one that could include all future Norwegian citizens.”
“Landscapes can easily become clichés but by being deeply rooted in Norwegian culture, they are also very easy to identify with.”
Apart from nature itself, what other sources of inspiration did you turn to?
“We have been inspired mainly by our beautiful country but also by old art disciplines, especially Norwegian woodcuts and painters who have influenced Norwegian art history. Images of scenery and landscape can easily become clichés but by being widely accepted and deeply rooted in Norwegian culture, they are also very easy to identify with. By using illustrations of single aspects of a broad Norwegian panorama from north to south, we want to show the contrasts in landscapes and climates that have shaped us, given us opportunities and resources, and are places for recreation and the scenes of important historical events.”
“We want to show the contrasts in landscapes and climates that have shaped us.”
The new Norwegian passport will be launched in 2018. For more information about Neue visit www.neue.no
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